A Message from Bishop BASIL
From the City-Wide Candlelight Vigil held
September 12, 2001
Whenever a death or any tragedy strikes a family, the first and natural impulse of the members of that family is to gather together. We seek and, thankfully, find comfort and solace in just being together. Likewise on the occasion of yesterday's tragedies our first and natural impulse was to gather with our larger families. Last evening the Orthodox Christians of this city - young and old - gathered as a family of faith, filling St George Cathedral for a Service of Supplication and for the pure comfort and solace which being together brings to our hearts and souls. And this evening it is meet and right that we Orthodox Christians join with our larger family of fellow citizens of the City of Wichita - Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, people of every race and background - all members of the one family known as Americans.
Yesterday the enemies of our American family attempted in a few minutes to destroy and unravel that precious tapestry which is the United States of America. Let our gathering together tonight be a witness to our unity and to the futility of that evil, cowardly and most reprehensible act.
For those of you who are not Christians, what I will say in a few moments may make little sense - or may even appear to be complete foolishness. I regret to say that it may even appear so to some who call themselves Christians. But it is who and what we Christians are; and we, though strands in the fabric which makes up the one tapestry of America, remain who we are - followers of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Benefactor, who teaches us this hard - this very difficult - lesson: From the fourth chapter of the holy Gospel according to St Matthew, beginning at the forty-third verse, our Lord says,
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
We will, most likely, need to be reminded of this teaching of our Lord Jesus over and over as the coming days pass, lest we become consumed with anger and hatred as the horror of yesterday becomes multiplied as we watch the number of injured and dead rising to unbelievable heights. Remember that as Christians we seek justice, not revenge.
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19). Yes, justice requires that we seek out our enemies - those who are responsible for these attacks on our American family and all who aided and abetted them in carrying out their barbaric deeds, but justice also demands that we not label as "enemy" an entire people, ethnic group or religious community.
In the face of the unspeakable pain and sorrow and, for many, the paralyzing fear occasioned by yesterday's tragedies, let us be comforted and emboldened by these words of Psalm 46 authored by the Holy Prophet and King and Psalmist David the ancestor of Christ God:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
The Orthodox Christians of this city are your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers. Though you may not know much about our faith - "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) - you know our names and our faces well. In closing, let me share with you the words of a prayer by which your friends, neighbors and co-workers -- Orthodox Christians -- supplicate God at times such as this:
O Lord God of hosts, God of our salvation, God who alone doest wonders: In mercy and goodness look upon thy humble servants, and as the Lover of mankind hear us and have mercy on us. For, behold, our enemies have gathered themselves against us to destroy us and to bring ruin to our sanctuaries. Help us, O God our Savior, and deliver us, for the glory of thy Name, and grant that we also may say with truth, as did Moses when he spoke to the people of Israel, and said: "Be bold, and stand fast; and ye shall see the salvation that cometh from the Lord … The Lord shall fight for you" (Exodus 14:13 & 14). Yea, O Lord God our Savior, our strength, our hope, and our protection: Remember not the transgressions and unrighteousness of thy people, and turn not away from us because of thine anger; but in mercy and goodness look upon thine humble servants who bow down before thy loving-kindness. Rise up to help us, and grant us victory over our enemies in thy Name. Grant forgiveness of sins to those, who in the mystery of thy dispensation, have lost their lives at the hands of our enemies, and on the day of thy just retribution bestow on them crowns of incorruption; For thou art the protection, the victory and the salvation of those who hope on thee, and to thee we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Amen. And God bless America.